What ifs……..will get you killed

by Evan on May 17, 2010

When I was in law enforcement and working as a Field Sergeant I had the opportunity to work with some fine men and women; all with a different focus to the job. One such individual was a fellow I’ll call Officer Joe Smith. He liked his “universe” in good order and very much enjoyed organizing things and people. Officer Joe Smith was in his early 30’s and his whole focus in his career was being a good desk officer.

As one of the supervisors on our team I found most of the officers on the shift avoided desk duty like the plague which usually left the injured on light duty or those unmotivated folks who where counting the few days they had left till retirement to assume the desk duty. That is until Officer Joe Smith cycled on to our early evening (swing) shift. He actually volunteered for desk duty.

The desk officer was always in uniform and assigned to a desk in the police building lobby. He would handle the walk in complaints as citizens came in, give tours to all the seven year old Brownie Scouts that wanted to meet a real Police Officer for the first time, and collated the shift paper work (a mundane and sometimes daunting task).

Depending on the night of the week we usually had 12 to 18 officers working on a shift plus several supervisors. That meant a lot of traffic tickets, criminal and traffic accident reports, subpoenas, and other miscellaneous paperwork that had to be reviewed one last time and sent on to the appropriate office. All that had to be done quickly & accurately. A mistake could jeopardize a case or publically embarrass the department.

Officer Smith was adequate as a street officer but really shined as a desk officer. He had found his career niche in life, was a good fellow to work with, and enjoyed doing a job that few on the shift wanted to do.

One late spring the agency was looking for a career criminal I’ll call Frankie Costello. Frankie was a meth head and during a two week period had turned into a one man crime spree including several robberies, assaults, one home invasion, and two car jackings. His activities had generated a flurry of arrest warrants. Our agency and several surrounding PD’s were desperately trying to find Frankie before he killed some one.

On a warm evening Joe the desk officer took his supper break about 9:30 pm. In an unmarked detective pool car Joe headed to a small convenience store about two blocks away from the police building for a sandwich and soda. As Joe turned into the parking lot he noted Frankie Costello also turning into the opposite end of the parking lot. Joe called for back up, swung around, and parked in back of Frankie’s old car, lept out of the unmarked car with his gun drawn, identified himself as a police officer, and ordered Frankie out of his vehicle and to do so with his hands in the air.

Frankie responded by getting out of his vehicle but with a pistol in his hand pointed at Joe. Joe yelled at Frankie several times to drop his gun and the two stood there for (what I later estimated) to be about 34 seconds. It took that long between Joe’s call for assistance and the first patrol car to get there. Frankie then did something out of character for him………he meekly gave up and laid down on the ground to be arrested.

Later that evening after Joe had completed his arrest report and calmed down after his, literally, near death experience, I asked him what was going through his mind at the moment he was facing down a gun barrel. Why didn’t he fire at Frankie? He thought for a long moment and said, “The only thing I could think of is if I shoot this guy how much paper work there was gonna be!”

While the names have been changed to save the stupid some embarrassment this is a true story. Joe’s focus, when he was faced with a real survival situation, caused him to hesitate and almost got him killed.

Flash forward to the present and I think about the many CCW permit holders I have talked to that after their class with someone else have said, “that attorney the instructor brought in for the class got me so scared about being sued or arrested for a felony and going to jail that I don’t think I’ll ever carry a gun much less shoot some body”.

Yes, that is something a Concealed Weapon permit holder needs to be aware of but should not use as their focus. The focus is on survival; whether you are a Mom or a Dad reading this, your family needs their provider to come back home. Proper training, proper planning, and proper practice will mitigate the worst of unpleasant consequences.

So to it is with us in the larger picture of preparing for an urban survival situation. Are we not preparing because of what the neighbors or family think? Are we not preparing because of a fear that an act of survival planning will make us a future target? Self doubt and a lack of confidence means no focus on what you need to do to save your life or that of a family member..

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